Antonio Francisco Javier Jose Soler was an eighteenth century Catalan composer, priest, monk, student, teacher, mathematician, inventor, and organist. His life was spent serving both the Catholic Church and music. He was a prolific composer with over 400 compositions credited to him by the time of his death at age 54. Soler spent most of his life at monasteries, particularly El Escorial, the magnificent royal palace, chapel, and monastery built by King Philip II outside of Madrid two centuries earlier. Soler apparently came from a musical family. His brother, Mateu, played bassoon in the monastery of Las Descalzas Reales and then in the court of Carlos III, and finally in the Capilla Real. His musical training began at a very early age. In 1736, he became a student at the Benedictine monastery choir school at Montserrat where he learned organ and composition. Between 1752 and 1757, while in his early twenties, Soler studied with Domenico Scarlatti, the Italian composer who served the Spanish court of Ferdinand VI and Maria Barbara. Prior to going to El Escorial, where he spent the rest of his life, Soler was the maestro de capilla at Lerida and was ordained subdeacon in 1752. Later that same year, he joined the Hieronymite order of monks at El Escorial monastery and professed to the order in 1753. Soler performed many duties at El Escorial. In 1757, he became maestro de capilla. In addition, he performed as first organist, wrote much of the church music, and taught music. Perhaps his most prestigious student was the son of Carlos III, Don Gabriel de Bourbon. Soler taught the young Don Gabriel keyboard and many of the Soler's harpsichord sonatas were written for him. It is difficult for most to grasp Soler's level of productivity, particularly in light of his many other duties and interests. His musical compositions included over 120 sonatas for harpsichord, six quintets for organ and strings, six double organ concertos, 10 masses, five requiems, 132 villancicos, and many other works. His most famous was a sonata for harpsichord entitled Fandango. Soler also wrote a treatise on harmony, Llave de la Modulación (1762) whose concepts remain valid today. This treatise, however, caused considerable controversy and rebuke by some of his peers. These criticisms caused Soler such dismay that in 1765, he responded with a written retort, Satisfacción a los reparos precisos, which spanned 67 pages and was supported by such noted authorities as Morales, Palestrina, and Scarlatti. The controversy did not end until a final defense was provided in Jose Vila's Respuestra y dictamen in 1766. He developed another treatise in 1771 that demonstrated his interest and skill in mathematics. This book was on Castilian and Catalan currency exchange and was published in honor of Carlos III. Soler was a man of other talents in addition to those mentioned. He invented a tuning box that was used to demonstrate differences between tones and semitones to Don Gabriel. He was also expert in organ design and construction. In 1776, he developed the specifications for an organ for the Malaga Cathedral.
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Classical - Released October 8, 2012 | Passacaille
Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Humberto de Oliveira's booklet notes for this terrific release by Brazilian-Swiss harpsichordist Nicolau de Figueiredo ask a question that may have occurred to keyboard music fans who've gone beyond Domenico Scarlatti and listened to the keyboard sonatas of Padre Antonio Soler, from the next Spanish generation. What of that "Padre"? If he was a cleric, why was he writing secular instrumental music, based on popular dance models? The answer turns out to be both less and more freighted with significance than it might seem. Less so because Soler was a member of the Spanish court, living and working (and dying) at El Escorial, Spain's unique combination of monastery and royal residence. He wrote keyboard music because he was expected to do so. But that is not to say that religious people did not worry about Soler's music. It touched off quite a debate, and Oliveira entertainingly recounts this little-known chapter of music history. At issue was not just the vigorous dance quality of Soler's sonatas, which are close to Scarlatti in this regard; ecclesiastical authorities also argued over their modulations, which seemed to violate the very rules of music. This debate seems to pervade the air as Figueiredo plays the sonatas, letting harmonic departures hang daringly and emphasizing dissonances within the context of a big, tough sound on his copy of a 1778 harpsichord from Tuscany. It all comes together in the work that must have been hardest of all for Spanish clerics to take, Soler's most famous work, the Fandango that closes the album. Figueiredo's towering performance, tying it all the way back to the old ground bass forms and yet looking forward to Romantic pianism, looms over earlier readings of the work, and the entire album, with excellent sound, is highly recommended to anyone looking for a place to start with Soler. Notes are in French, English, and German. © TiVo
Classical - Released March 21, 2006 | Naxos
Padre Antonio Soler was a Catalan monk who studied with Domenico Scarlatti and wrote harpsichord music that extended Scarlatti's language. Some of his 120-odd surviving sonatas follow Scarlatti closely, with compact binary forms and such effects as emulation of Spanish guitar styles. But Soler, a generation younger, struck out in new directions -- not just because he had his own musical personality, as harpsichordist Gilbert Rowland says in the notes to this disc, but because he was trying to reconcile the Scarlattian language with the limpid galant style that was on the rise. Soler's music is generally more difficult for the player than Scarlatti's music, and in places it's quite spectacular even if Soler was caught in something of a historical dead end. The present disc is one installment in a complete set of Soler harpsichord sonatas being issued by the indefatigable folks at Naxos. If it is possible to describe any harpsichord playing as in-your-face, that of British harpsichordist Gilbert Rowland qualifies, from the very first abrupt chord heard on this recording. His full-bore approach has admirers and detractors in equal measure, but there's a good case to be made that it's ideal for Soler. Consider the massive 11-minute Sonata No. 22 in D flat major on this disc, a parade of virtuoso effects that Rowland executes with aplomb on his loud, metallic Flemish instrument. The subtler style of a Pierre Hantaï would seem overwrought here. One complaint is that Rowland has not divided up Soler's output in any meaningful way; each disc in his series is much like the others. The program on each individual disc, however, makes good sense: he performs certain sonatas in pairs (probably what was intended for both Scarlatti and Soler) and offers a mix of shorter and longer, multi-movement works. The four-movement Sonata No. 62 in B flat that concludes this disc is from Mozart's era, and it's an uncomfortable hybrid indeed -- but that is not Rowland's doing. There is another complete set of Soler sonatas by harpsichordist Bob van Asperen on the Astrée label; listeners uncomfortable with Rowland's flashy readings may wish to sample that series for comparison. © TiVo